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Family History (Part 1?)


I was reminded today by something I was watching that I had my maternal grandfather's World War II medals tucked away somewhere1. So I dug them out. They're still in the box they came in, and inside the box the medals themselves are still in their wrappers and have clearly never been worn as the ribbons with them are also virginal. A slip of paper explains what the medals in the box could be and another tiny fragile slip has ticked off those he was awarded: the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939–1945. There's another tiny slip recording his rank "CPL" and his service number.

Defence MedalWar Medal 1939ââ¬

Which left me with some questions. As far as I was aware Albert Cox was an aircraft fitter servicing bombers (he'd been a motor mechanic before the war) so the War Medal 1939–1945 comes are no surprise. But why was he also awarded the Defence Medal, which is essentially a medal for civilians who did something towards the war effort (see the link above for a long list)?

So I asked my mother. And she told me that before he was called up he was a special constable, which explains it as that was one of the possibilities listed for award of the Defence Medal. "And that's how we came to live in Charles Road" she said.

"Errr ... what?".

Charles Road, Handsworth, Birmingham was where my mother's family lived right up until my grandfather died in 1993 and where my grandmother lived until shortly before her death a few years later so it's a significant landmark for me. What was the story? Apparently when he was called up he was concerned that the family, who were then living in Witton, a few miles away from Handsworth, could be bombed as the house was very close to some factories which were likely German targets. One of his fellow specials was the agent for the landlord of the houses in Charles Road so arranged for him to rent number 45.

As for the medals never having been worn she couldn't explain that one, but she did tell me some other interesting things, including about her maternal grandfather, Thomas Orme, who served in the artillery in the Great War, his brother Harry, and about my paternal grandfather, but I'll come back to those another day.

I also discovered, while looking at this, that I can get sight of Albert's service history if I jump through the right hoops and cross the MoD's palm with silver. So I shall do that and see what I find.

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  1. I have those, plus his best hat which I asked for as, in my memory, he always had a hat clamped on his head. Sadly I can't wear that as it turns out that he had a huge head and even after padding the rim with paper it still feels like I'm rattling inside it.

Tags: family Written 27/06/13

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